Based on the impact of the pandemic, and experience of how businesses act during times of economic turbulence, we can assess what we might see in the dispute resolution sector in the coming months.

We can expect to see increased litigation regarding a variety of contractual issues. During economic downturns, businesses often make the decision not to engage in disputes altogether, or ‘park’ the issue. Once finances improve, businesses can devote more resources to litigation.

Commercial property litigation may become a hot topic. Currently, there is significant protection in place for business tenants.  This may help to increase the number of litigated disputes if businesses feel more financially secure. Once the bar on evictions is lifted, we can expect to see an explosion of commercial property possession claims.

Certain staff and businesses have become used to home working. Less office space will be required as more and more staff work remotely. We can expect to see potential issues between landlord and tenant surrounding renegotiation/surrender of current leases.

An unusual side effect of increased homeworking has been the number of enquiries we receive regarding neighbour disputes! Increased proximity to neighbours during the pandemic has not always been a positive. As homeworking seems likely to extend into the future, we can perhaps expect this to be a continuing trend.

It is widely expected that once restrictions are lifted there will be an increase in employment litigation.

There are many areas of potential dispute in store for employers and employees when restrictions are lifted, which could potentially end up in an employment tribunal.

The most contentious issue is likely to be the requirement to return to the office, with employers and employees locking horns over the issue of whether or not they should be permitted to continue to work from home (or vice versa).

Other issues could include – whether the workplace is COVID-secure; if clinically vulnerable employees will be required to return to the office, and managing sickness absences, which could increase as a result of the lifting of all restrictions at a time when the infection rate is also on the rise.

The closure of the furlough scheme at the end of September 2021 is also likely to lead to an increase in redundancies, which could in turn lead to a spike in employment tribunal claims as employees try to challenge the lawfulness of the redundancy.

Despite restrictions lifting, there is also likely to be continued use of remote tribunal hearings, in order to clear the backlog of cases, and deal with an influx of new cases, although in person hearings will be used for more complex cases such as discrimination.

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